A Pastoral Letter from the Central Presbytery of the Presbyterian Church of Venezuela
TO OUR SISTERS AND BROTHERS IN THE LAND OF GRACE
True peace will never be achieved by the moral annihilation of anyone who defies our perception of what ought to be. This would only be a kind of “pax romana.” A peace of victors and vanquished. A false peace, within which will hide a rotting gangrene, eating away at society as a whole. As a church we seek a true and lasting peace. A peace in which we all win. Peace which is the fruit of justice, of reflection, of honest consensus and without concealed weapons. Therefore, we call on our fellow citizens to avoid sinking into an absurd fratricidal confrontation that benefits no one.
Read Sarah Henken's blog, "Praying with Venezuela"
In an open letter to their compatriots, delegates to Central Presbytery's regularly scheduled assembly drafted a letter that calls on all sides to step up to their unique responsibilities and work for a constructive, peaceful outcome that serves the common good.
Evangelical Council of Venezuela calls for prayer and that the State fulfills its role as guarantor of civil rights
"In this hour of extraordinary pain for the country, in which mourning once again overcomes Venezuelan homes, the Evangelical Council of Venezuela expresses its solidarity to all and lifts up prayers and supplications to God for the peace of our nation, and especially for the families that have lost a loved one during the protests that took place this past Wednesday February12,” says an official statement made public on February 13.—ALC (Latin America and Caribbean Communication Agency)
PERSPECTIVE: Political Violence in Venezuela, a Game With No Clear End
Violence on the streets of Venezuela, with anti-government protests in the capital and 12 other cities, is a sign of hardening stances by both the government and its opponents as President Nicolás Maduro takes a trial-and-error approach to the economy in crisis. Opposition student protests continued over the weekend in Caracas and other cities, while on Saturday some 15,000 pro-government supporters turned out for a peace demonstration called by the president.— Inter Press Service News Agency, IP
PERSPECTIVE: Venezuela – the real significance of the student protests
Despite claims that social media ‘democratises’ the media, it is clear that in Venezuela it has had the opposite effect, exacerbating the trend towards disinformation and misrepresentation, with overseas media groups and bloggers reproducing – without verification – opposition claims and images of student injuries allegedly caused by police brutality and attacks by government supporters.— Upside Down World/ALC
CELAC Summit Targets Inequality
Havana, Cuba, Jan. 31, 2014. Heads of state and government at the Second Summit of the Community of Latin American and Caribbean States (CELAC) made a joint commitment to reduce poverty, hunger and inequality, and declared their region a "zone of peace." The summit, held in Havana Jan. 28-29, was attended by the heads of all Latin American and Caribbean countries except Panama, Belize and El Salvador. The meeting of 30 presidents also put an end to Cuban isolation.—Inter Press Service News Agency, IPS
Caribbean Walks the Talk on Clean Energy Policy
BRIDGETOWN, Barbados, Jan 28 2014 (IPS) – Despite having an abundance of wind and sunshine, Caribbean countries have found that going green is requiring significant shifts in policy, and most importantly, significant financing. But despite these challenges, they are not daunted. Barbados, for instance, which spends an estimated 400 million dollars annually on fossil fuel imports, has announced plans for a wind, gas and solar energy programme that requires almost one billion dollars in investments. Read more.
Dennis Smith and his journey of faith are featured in two articles in the National Catholic Reporter:
"Missioner came of age in Guatemala"
"In confronting a violent past, Guatemalans find miracles in present"
Building a harmonious relationship with nature
The recovery of ancestral practices, knowledge, and wisdom of the indigenous peoples, focused on the common well-being and the reunion between human beings and nature, has been injected in the debate over development, and in the name of Good Living, or Living Well, they are established as alternatives.— Latinamerica Press/ALC (Latin America and Caribbean Communication Agency)
CWS Celebrates Historic U.S. Senate Vote for Immigration Reform
“This vote represents a historic landmark in the path to justice for millions of families across our nation who have spent too long facing family separation wrought by our broken immigration system,” said the Rev. John McCullough, President and CEO of Church World Service.—CWS/ALC (Latin America and Caribbean Communication Agency)
Church World Service Praises 38 Countries Who've Halved Hunger
Those countries in which CWS programs are at work that have reached the UN Millennium Development Goal #1 [Eradicate extreme poverty and hunger by 2015] include Cambodia, Dominican Republic, Georgia, Honduras, Indonesia, Nicaragua and Vietnam. Of those, Georgia, Nicaragua and Vietnam are among the countries that also have reached the rigorous World Food Summit hunger benchmark.—Latin America and Caribbean Communication Agency
Lutheran World Federation (LWF) Council Calls for Action to End Violence and Impunity in Central America
The LWF governing body welcomed the upcoming visit to Central America of the LWF General Secretary Rev. Martin Junge, with the hope that it would help make governments in the region aware of the Lutheran communion’s concern about human rights violations and the need for immediate action to end the violence.—LWF, Latin America and Caribbean Communication Agency
El Salvador mining ban could establish a vital water security precedent
With their water supply threatened, Salvadorans are hitting back at mining companies
Indigenous food sovereignty
UN Declaration on the Rights of Indigenous Peoples, addresses the sovereignty of indigenous people over their food, traditions, and intellectual property.”—Latin America and Caribbean Communication Agency (ALC)
Boricúa: Agroecology and the return of family agriculture in Puerto Rico
In Puerto Rico, like elsewhere, people are taking back their food system. On one hand, consumers are demanding good, healthy local food. On the other hand, new, mostly young farmers are growing it. This “re-peasantization,” long ignored by mainstream rural sociologists has now been extensively documented, worldwide.—Latin America and Caribbean Communication Agency (ALC)
Human trafficking is focus of church consultation in Cuba
The Caribbean situation serves as a case study for the global phenomenon
Shifts in balance of power create uneasy relations in Latin America—Catholic News Service
The Latin American Biblical University (UBL), based in San José, Costa Rica, offers opportunities for volunteers and study programs. It is esp. looking for a 1- or 2-year volunteer to set up its online education program. Read more on the Costa Rica page.
CENTRAL AMERICA / MEXICO / CARIBBEAN
The closest international partners of the Presbyterian Church (U.S.A.) live in the Central American, Mexican and Caribbean region. This gives Presbyterians the opportunity to get to know Christian brothers and sisters from the countries represented in the region because of the ease of travel and communication. As Presbyterians get to know these Christians they find that the economic situation of many is fragile. The Presbyterian Church (U.S.A.) relates to a number of Christian institutions and churches in a manner that engenders trust and sharing.
There are three historical Presbyterian relationships in the countries of Mexico, Guatemala and Cuba. The relationships that once were mission body to mission church have moved to ones of sister churches in partnership.
Scottish Presbyterians founded the Latin American Biblical University (UBL) in San José, Costa Rica. It began as a women’s Bible school but today is a well-respected institution of theological training. Three PC(USA) mission personnel are working with the seminary at this time. The UBL receives students from all over Latin America. Dr. Elsa Tamez, former rector of the institution, has made an important contribution to theological thought throughout the world. The Fraternity of Evangelical Churches (FIEC) has had a meaningful presbytery partnership with the Presbytery of Lake Huron for many years. The FIEC is a member of the Association of Reformed and Presbyterian Churches of Latin America (AIPRAL).
For many years the PC(USA) has been in partnership with the Moravian Church of Nicaragua. The Moravian Church, historically found on the east coast of Nicaragua where indigenous people of the Miskito, Sumu and Rama tribes lived as well as Garifuno and African Nicaraguans, has extended into many parts of the country. The Presbyterian Church was part of the group of people who assisted the Evangelical Christians of Nicaragua as they banded together to give help to those who were devastated by the huge earthquake of 1972. The Evangelical Council of Churches (CEPAD) grew out of the Evangelical effort. The PC(USA) has been in partnership with CEPAD since. Nine PC(USA) presbytery congregations have partnerships with different in Nicaraguan groups. A close relation with the Evangelical Faculty of Theological Studies (FEET) has developed through the past years. The PC(USA) Office of Theological Education has contributed to several Christian education and theological forums sponsored by the FEET.
In Honduras the Christian Commission for Development (CCD) accompanies and trains the poor of Honduras in agriculture and community development. The CCD is a faith-based development group that also guides pastors and lay people in theological education. Two PC(USA) mission workers are included in the CCD staff, and there is one presbytery partnership with CCD. Another mission couple works with Heifer International. The Theological Community is the seminary branch of CCD. The National Evangelical Presbyterian Church of Guatemala began a mission work in Honduras that today sees fruit in the independent Presbyterian body in that country — the Presbytery of Honduras. The Presbytery of Tampa Bay relates to this small group of Presbyterian Christians.
Two PC(USA) long-term mission workers have related to the El Salvadoran development organization ALFALIT. A Reconciliation and Mission participant worked with the Calvinist Reformed Church of El Salvador. The El Salvadoran people have experienced physical and emotional pain due to the January and February earthquakes of 2001. Both the Reformed Church and ALFALIT have accompanied them during these difficult times and Presbyterian Disaster Assistance has been attentive to the situation.
The close relationship with the National Evangelical Presbyterian Church of Guatemala is seen through the six presbytery partnerships with eight presbyteries in the Guatemalan church. There are seven mission workers serving with the Guatemalan Presbyterians. The Christian Service Office, Diaconia, has been instrumental in helping Guatemalans recover from the ravages of Hurricane Mitch. The Central American Evangelical Center for Pastoral Studies (CEDEPCA) has its central office in Guatemala. Two PC(USA) presbyteries are in partnership with CEDEPCA. PC(USA) mission workers are involved in communications and travel/reflection groups that help Presbyterians from the United States meet Guatemalan Christians and become acquainted with Guatemalan realities.
Mexico is a large country, and the National Presbyterian Church of Mexico (NPCM) is one of the largest historical churches in the country with approximately 1 million members. Thirteen PC(USA) mission workers are involved in the Mexican/U.S. Border Ministries and two mission workers are at the San Pablo Seminary in Merida, Mexico. There are six presbytery partnerships with presbyteries in Mexico and two presbytery partnerships with Border Ministries. The three priorities of the NPCM are evangelism, education and health. The Mexico City Presbyterian Seminary Choir is known for its quality and creativeness.
The Presbyterian-Reformed Church in Cuba became an independent body in 1975 after having been a part of the Synod of New Jersey for many years. There are six presbytery partnerships with this small but dynamic group of Cuban Christians. Cuban Presbyterians are theological leaders in their own country and in world ecclesiastical bodies. Each year Presbyterians from the United States visit with these dedicated Christians. There is one PC(USA) mission worker in Cuba at this time, serving as the regional liaison for the Caribbean, with special attention to Cuba and the Caribbean-North American Council for Mission.
Cooperation in mission between the Episcopal Church of Haiti and the PC(USA) began in the middle 1970s with the revival of a health clinic in Leogane, about 30 kilometers west of Port-au-Prince. Today this small institution is a three-story hospital serving a large area of the country. An important part of the health care from the hospital is given by trained health promoters and midwives. Education is a top priority of the church in Haiti. There are seven PC(USA) mission workers involved in education, agricultural development and health care work in Haiti.
The Presbyterian Church, the United Methodist Church and the Moravian Church joined to form a united church called the Dominican Evangelical Church of the Dominican Republic. The Dominican Church is active and involved in the life of the people in Dominican society. A presbytery partnership with Elizabeth Presbytery has been in existence for many years. In the past the PC(USA) has had mission workers cooperating with the Dominican Church in introducing U.S. Christians to Dominican life. Women pastors have been part of the Dominican Church’s leadership for many years.
As in the Dominican Republic, also in Jamaica the Presbyterian Church and the Congregational Church joined to form a united church. Some years later the Disciples joined them, and a new church called the United Church in Jamaica and the Cayman Islands was born. The United Church is a dynamic body that moves in development works for the poor in society and in new avenues for lay and clergy theological training. Two PC(USA) mission workers are living and working with the Jamaican people, and four presbytery partnerships are in effect.
The PC(USA) has cordial relations with the Presbyterian Church of Trinidad. Through an organization called the Caribbean North American Council for Mission (CANACOM) the PC(USA) relates to the Presbyterian Church of Grenada, the Guyana Presbyterian Church, the Presbytery of Guyana, the Guyana Congregational Union and the United Protestant Church of Curacao. Also included in CANACOM are the United Church of Canada, the Presbyterian Church in Canada, the Presbyterian-Reformed Church in Cuba and the Dominican Evangelical Church. This multilateral relationship allows large churches and smaller ones to be in mission together, where all are receiving and all are giving.
The PC(USA) now has partnerships with Presbyterian or Reformed denominations in seven South American countries: Argentina, Brazil, Chile, Colombia, Peru, Uruguay and Venezuela. In addition it supports and works closely with AIPRAL (Association of Presbyterian and Reformed Churches in Latin America), a branch of the World Association of Reformed Churches. Through AIPRAL, the PC(USA) is in contact with churches from Ecuador, Bolivia and Paraguay.
The South American countries are now climbing out of the depths of one of the most profound crises of the 20th century. The “lost decade” of the 1980s was characterized by low or negative economic growth, huge external debt, economic instability and nearly permanent fiscal crisis.
One of the causes of this poor performance is the structure of the regional economy; Latin America has the world’s worst income distribution. That means that the lack of purchasing power of the masses of people inhibits the growth of an internal market for goods produced.
Another cause of the economic distress is the globalization of the world’s economy, which the PC(USA)’s partner churches have identified as the single most difficult obstacle to their people’s development. As a Christian community, the members of the PC(USA) are members of the same body of Christ — “if one member suffers, all suffer together with it” (1 Corinthians 12:26). Our partners in South America are asking, “How can we justify the faith affirmation that we are one in Christ if more and more brothers and sisters are suffering and excluded?”
According to the Reformed tradition, the economy is a social framework that is supposed to sustain life in community. And yet the world’s present economic order contributes to dismantling rather than sustaining community. People are not only suffering, they are being systematically excluded from the community.
Christians in Peru have mobilized around the Biblical jubilee during the year 2000 and gathered 1.7 million signatures asking for the forgiveness of foreign debt for the world’s poorest countries. Our two Brazilian partner churches are especially articulate: “We reaffirm the hope that commerce between nations should produce well-being for all people and not only for a few,” states the General Assembly of the Independent Presbyterian Church of Brazil. “We reaffirm the hope in the construction of an international order that is just and in solidarity, in the name of our Lord and Savior Jesus Christ.”
Although Venezuela is a world leader in the exportation of crude oil, it will take decades to recover from the effects of the floods of 1999, which totally reshaped the Venezuela coastline for 40 miles, removing whole towns from the face of the earth and killing an estimated 30,000 people.
Perhaps the country most in need of Presbyterians’ prayerful intervention is Colombia, where peace has finally made some progress only to be threatened by military “aid” from the United States. In the present context aid from the United States contributes not to peace but to war. Help from the United States would be welcomed if it were aimed at decreasing the unemployment rate, which stands at more than 20 percent. People of faith would welcome help in building housing for the more than 1 million people displaced by the war. “As a church,” writes Milton Mejia, stated clerk of the Presbyterian Church of Colombia, “we believe that if the United States focuses its aid on military equipment and trainers it will only help to deepen and prolong a war of more than 40 years that has not been resolved by [military] means.”
All countries in this area are listed below. Countries with Web pages giving Presbyterian-specific information are highlighted. For other countries, there is currently no PC(USA) involvement in this country or the Web pages have not yet been prepared. The PC(USA) also participates in or relates to work in other countries through ecumenical relationships.
Central America and the Caribbean
Antigua and Barbuda
St. Kitts and Nevis
St. Vincent and the Grenadines
Regional liaisons (mission co-workers)
Amanda Craft and Omar Chan, regional liaison for Guatemala and Mexico
Sarah Henken, regional liaison for the Andean Region, South America—Bolivia, Colombia, Ecuador, Peru and Venezuela
Jo Ella Holman, regional liaison for the Caribbean
Tracey King-Ortega, regional liaison for Central America
Suzette Goss-Geffrard, partnership facilitator for Haiti
Dennis Smith, regional liaison for Brazil and the Southern Cone (Argentina, Uruguay, Chile)
CANACOM has pioneered a different form of mission partnership, a roundtable where resources are pooled, according to means
"Journey of Faith and Learning to Uruguay and Argentina," travel/study seminar hosted by the Waldensian Society. May 30–June 8, 2012.
Latin American Protestants, Catholics hold historic meeting
Latin American Council of Churches to meet in Cuba
“Affirming an Ecumenism of Concrete Gestures” is the CLAI's theme